February 5, 2007

Because I Said So

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Because I Said So is not just a romantic comedy — it is about a mother’s inability to let go, thus qualifying as a romantic comedy about the relationship between a mother and a daughter. Therefore, if you are neither a mother nor a daughter, you will probably not find much to interest you in this film. And even if you are, the interest is certainly not a given.

The mother, Daphne Wilder (Diane Keaton), is a baker who has single-handedly raised three girls, all of whom are likely somewhere in their thirties at the outset of the movie. The two older daughters are married, and they are played by Piper Perabo, most recently seen in The Prestige, and Lauren Graham, the mother in Gilmore Girls. The two actresses’ characters, Mae and Maggie, serve little purpose in the wider context of the film, which is largely concentrated on the relationship between Daphne and her youngest daughter, Milly (Mandy Moore).

Milly Wilder is an over-talkative, snort-while-laughing caterer harboring a half-baked interest in a musical career. Milly, according to her mother, is incapable of knowing what is best for her, and therefore Daphne has taken things into her own hands, searching for potential dates for Milly via an Internet advertisement. Daphne settles on the slightly controlling architect Jason (Tom Everett Scott), who she believes is perfect for her daughter. Meanwhile Milly, while intrigued by Jason, also finds interest in Johnny (Gabriel Macht), a tattooed musician with a six-year-old son — needless to say, the controlling Daphne disapproves.

Milly begins to date both guys simultaneously, whilst Daphne frets over her daughter, trying to foist her preferred man on Milly. All the while, we have perfunctory mother-daughter bonding sessions, where Daphne and all three daughters go shopping, or something equally uninspired. Graham’s character, Maggie, who is a shrink, also receives a slight side-plot wherein she gets to treat the well-cast Tony Hale, from Arrested Development, as the needy loser Stuart. Sadly, these psychiatrist sessions which are tangential to the film are some of the funniest parts.

On the whole, you watch the following drama unfold: a mother attempts to do what she thinks is best for her daughter, while her daughter rebels at the meddling in her life. This is not the stuff of great drama, or even comedy, really. Because I Said So, while easy to watch, is too formulaic for one to actually care about the characters or their dilemmas. Daphne Wilder is overdone and melodramatic, and not even just when she is interacting with her daughters. When she attempts to find a mate for Milly, we are treated to a far-too clichéd version of the-older-person-attempting-to-use-the-Internet. Nonetheless, while Keaton’s character is neither endearing nor believable, she does provide us with a tried-and-true Keaton standard — her eccentric wardrobe, the sine qua non of which is a gaudy bowtie.

The soundtrack, while slightly fitting, was a little too conspicuous in the film. And music selection was only one item among many that distracted me from the plot of the film. I also noticed that Gabriel Macht, who plays Johnny, bears a striking resemblance to a younger version of Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four, which made the movie a bit more entertaining during the parts that dragged (“Maybe he can win her heart by squeezing through the keyhole in that door!”).

Romantic comedies face a fundamental stumbling block to greatness — they are often not intended to be cinematic masterpieces, but instead light, heart-warming fare to be processed without a great investment of thought. However, Because I Said So doesn’t even reach the level of good, dispensable fluff, as the role of the overbearing and meddlesome mom presents a fatal flaw. So, while despite being a romantic comedy, and despite boasting Diane Keaton, this was unfortunately no Annie Hall. Why? Because I said so. (Yes, that was too easy.)